Mary McCaslin's Roundup

Mar 16, 2006



            Every birthday should be special, and this year singer-songwriter Ginny Mitchell has something very special to add to the celebration mix. This coming Saturday is not only Ginny's birthday, it's the release date of her new CD, "Just to Hear Your Voice". She will be celebrating with a concert Saturday night at the Digital Media Factory in the old Wrigley building on the west side of Santa Cruz.

            Co-produced by Ginny and drummer extraordinaire Jim Norris, this CD features two of her originals, "Miss You Boy" and the lovely "Ed and Alice". The rest of the songs are covers of favorites. Featured are her stunning versions of Don Henley's "Heart of the Matter" and the Rolling Stones' "Mother's Little Helper", the latter done in a full-on Bluegrass arrangement. Also included are soft jazz versions of "When You Wish Upon a Star" and "Stardust", along with some country / rock, Americana, folk and a gospel selection. Of these "Shine", "Straight to You" and "Sanctuary" stand out.

            "Just to Hear Your Voice" is Ginny's second CD. Her first, "Wild Rose", was a collection of singles that she had recorded over the previous years before its release in 1993. It was mostly recorded in Nashville and was produced by bassist and banjo player Mark Schatz, who has worked with Tim and Mollie O'Brien, made a solo banjo CD and is now with Nickel Creek. The title cut was recorded locally at Mars studio and featured an up and coming young bluegrass musician named Alison Krauss on fiddle. She was touring through the area in a band with Schatz.

            Ginny Mitchell was born in Berkeley and lived in Orinda until the deaths of both parents, a few months apart from each other. From Orinda she and her brother and sister moved to Santa Cruz to live with her uncle and aunt Al and Ruth Mitchell. Ginny had always sung, in church choirs and at school, and took up the guitar somewhere around the age of 12 or 13. She attended Santa Cruz High School, studying music with beloved teacher Bill Wright. There she became friends with classmate and budding guitarist Steve Palazzo, who she taught how to play a D chord. Steve has gone on to become a well-respected bluegrass flatpicker and fingerstyle player with recordings of his own and with bluegrass band Homefire.

            After high school Ginny studied music at Cabrillo College, taking Ray Brown's legendary jazz improv class. She became the first vocalist to finish the class and she went on to receive her Associate of Arts degree in music at Cabrillo.

            She then married and moved to Canada, taking up residence in the town of Sickamous, British Columbia. While living there Ginny and her husband Tim started a concert production company called Starlite Productions. She began to make a name for herself as a singer, and in 1986 was given the Best New Artist award by the Canadian Country Music Association. She was also nominated for a Juno award, which is the Canadian version of our Grammy.

            After a few years Ginny and Tim moved back to the Santa Cruz area. She formed a band with Canadian country guitarist Red Volkart, who she had met in Canada and who now works with Merle Haggard. Other band members included Santa Cruz musicians Bill Laymon on bass and Slippery John Weston on pedal steel. Around this time the marriage broke up. As part of the healing process she became involved with Sean Seman's Young at Heart, singing for the elderly residents of convalescent homes, and joined the Mt. Madonna Choir.

Destiny stepped in when she happened to meet a filmmaker named Marty Collins, who became the director for her “Wild Rose” music video. At the time he had a production company in San Jose called, of all things, Starlite Productions. They married in 2001.

Ginny’s friend, singer Lacy J. Dalton, did a cameo on the video as a waitress. The next year it won an award from IUMA and TechTV.

 In the late 1990s Ginny and Marty went to Virginia City, Nevada to film Lacy’s "Wild Horse Crossing" CD release concert. Ginny had done some harmony singing on the recording and was aware of Lacy's efforts to save a herd of wild horses near her Virginia City home.

            While visiting they learned more about the dire situation of the wild horses of Storey County and the idea for a documentary was born. Out of this idea came the Girls from Santa Cruz concert, which was presented and video taped at the Santa Cruz High School auditorium in June of 2002. A Girls From Santa Cruz CD and DVD, with footage of the wild horses and interviews, followed.

            Last year after Hurricane Katrina hit Mitchell / Collins Productions put together a grand benefit concert called the Katrina-thon. It took place on October 9th at the Digital Media Factory and was also video taped. There was a huge line-up of musicians and singers, all donating their performances to raise money for those whose homes were in the path of the hurricane. There were even some four-legged refugees from that devastated area on hand out in front of the building for a “meet and greet”.

            This coming Saturday night Ginny, who was honored in 2005 with a Gail Rich Award, will be accompanied by some of the finest musicians available anywhere. Included in the band will be Jim Lewin and Yuji Tojo on guitar, Deby Benton-Grosjean on violin, Jay Jackson on piano, Tiran Porter on bass and Jim Norris on drums. On one song Ginny’s brother Bill will be playing guitar. She will be singing a selection of favorites in her rich, beautiful voice. And a splendid time is guaranteed for all.

            Happy Trails!

Mary McCaslin will be playing at Don Quixote’s in Felton on March 23rd and at the Espresso Garden Café in San Jose on March 31st. Email her at



What: Ginny Mitchell CD release and birthday celebration.

When: 7 p.m. Saturday, March 18.

Where: Digital Media Factory, 2809 Mission St., Santa Cruz.

Cost: $10 advance, $12 at the door.

Details: 427-2941